A cool opportunity for teachers!!

WANTED: Up to 20 schools (in the U.S., east of the Rocky Mountains) to follow the development of monarchs on the International Space Station.

The next Space Shuttle launch is scheduled for November 16th. Atlantis will carry three 4th instar monarch caterpillars to the International Space Station (ISS) in a small rearing chamber. This chamber will be placed in an incubator aboard the ISS where the developing monarchs will be monitored. Still and video cameras will continually capture images, which will be made available online.

We have prepared a text that outlines normal development of monarchs from the fourth instar until emergence as adults. This detailed text is written for adults and contains an extensive glossary. It is intended to provide the information teachers need to answer student questions and as a guide to the five major challenges monarchs face in the nearly weightless environment of the International Space Station.

If you would like your school or classroom to participate, please contact us at monarch[at]ku.edu before 5PM this Friday (November 6th).

Monarch Watch will send a special monarch larva kit to participating schools. The monarch kit costs $17.95 and the overnight shipping will be an additional $26 for a total of $43.95. BioServe Space Technologies will send participating classrooms a kit that includes a rearing chamber (similar to the one going into space) with instructions.

The kit consists of six 3rd instar larvae on artificial diet and additional cups of diet. Three larvae will be loaded into the rearing chamber.  One of the cups with diet will be used to fill the feeding trays in the chamber you will receive from BioServe. The other cups of diet can be used to feed the remaining larvae until they are ready to add to the finishing cups. Additional instructions will be provided regarding these points.

If you participate in this program your students will be able to follow the shuttle mission to the space station and the development of the monarchs in space for at least two weeks.

The background materials, additional instructions, and relevant links will be available at http://www.monarchwatch.org

If you have any questions, please let us know!

Jim Lovett
Monarch Watch

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I need to go badger some teachers. Is this aimed at elementary or secondary school classes?

  2. I’m not really sure–My guess is more middle school.

  3. Interestingly, I met Chip Taylor back in 2001 when I did a 10-week REU program at KU! Small world. :)

  4. Huh.

    There’s an artificial diet for monarch butterflies? I hadn’t heard of this before[1]

    Hm . . . Wow. Here’s something: This site is selling artificial diets for a whole bunch of different kinds of butterflies and moths. Does this mean it would be practical to raise butterflies at home *all year round, even in Michigan?*

    [1] Although, I guess I had heard of getting them to eat lettuce instead of milkweed to make them non-toxic, as the setup for a nasty practical joke on bluejays.

  5. there’s a difference between diets that you can get butterflies to complete a life cycle on, and diets that produce healthy, fully functional adult insects.
    It’s like living on nothing but oatmeal–humans can do it, but it’s not all that good for you. I would be wary of some of those claims.

    Bioserv offers a general lepidoptera diet, but it’s better for some insects than others. (which they are up front about :) Bioserv has been around for >30 yrs, and they are the industry suppliers. So, I tend to check and see what they’ve got first!

  6. Here’s a link to my blog post on the Monarch Watch fall 2009 Open House. Lots of photos. I included one photo of the room where Chip Taylor and crew are raising successfully Monarchs on an artificial diet. http://catherinesherman.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/butterfly-school-at-monarch-watch-fall-2009-open-house/

  7. From the time you made this post, I have been trying to find out more about Monarchs in Space, but my email enquiries to Monarch Watch have been answered only by form letter style replies geared towards schools that must register and pay a fee for participation.

    I find this rather annoying. What about the rest of us? What about the dedicated teachers that maybe found out about this fascinating experiment too late to participate? Or what if they can’t afford the registration fee? What if I’m just a person who likes bugs and wants to follow the monarch caterpillars on their adventure? What can I do?

    Well, I found a message board for Monarch Watch, and I posted just these questions. We’ll see what happens.

  8. Hmmmm….that sounds odd. I will see what I can find out for you!

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